Making Life Sweeter Through Beekeeping

Keeping bees and collecting honey is one of the most wonderful antidotes to the stresses of twenty
first (21 st ) century living. In beekeeping, you have to be slow and gentle, in tune with the weather,
and understand the natural order of the flowering season. Unlike most hobbies you will be
handsomely rewarded with the most delicious result. Your own honey from your garden farm

Getting started

If you are a complete beginner to beekeeping, the best advice is to contact the branch of your local beekeeping organisation. Many groups hold novice training sessions; others will set you up with a
“buddy” who will always be on hand to help you through the first few years and also likely to offer you access to second hand equipment as well as good tempered bees.

Bees store honey in the upper parts of a hive, while the queen lays in the lower part, so by inserting an artificial barrier, a mesh referred to as a “queen
excluder”; through which the smaller worker bees can pass but bigger queen cannot, contains the queen, eggs, and is separated from the upper boxes (“suppers”) where all the honey is stored. Hives are best positioned in a sunny but shaded spot facing into a prevailing wind, as it helps the bees when they return full of nectar. In a garden, face them 3-4 feet away from a high structure, such as a shed, fence, or hedge, so that the bees will emerge from the hive, leave around 3 feet between each; most important, angle the entrances in different directions.


Being wild creatures, bee colonies survive perfectly happily without any human intervention, building up numbers in the spring, making honey in the summer, and then reducing numbers again in the winter to live off stores.

However, bees recognize a colony as a single unit; they naturally go through a process known as swarming.  This involves the old queen and all the flying bees leaving the hive in search of a new home. A queen cell, which will provide a new queen, and all the hive bound bees are left behind.

So while your original colony will still exist, and indeed grow over the season, that summer workforce will be seriously depleted, which considerably reduces the amount of honey you will collect during that year. Swarming is a complex subject. A multitude of books have been written about it and there are many schools of thought on how to deal with the swarming  problem, so master the art of swarm control and you really are on the way to becoming a serious beekeeper.

Bee Stings

It’s inevitable that you will get stung at some point, particularly when you are new to beekeeping. Remove the sting and apply an antihistamine tablet. Bee stings are not usually a problem unless you’re stung on the face or throat, in which case visit a physician. Some people have allergies or bad reactions to bee stings; again, seek medical advice or attention if this is the case.


This rich, golden liquid is loved by cultures all over the world. It’s not only delicious simply eaten on a toast but can be used to replace sugar in cooking and baking. Nothing is ever added or taken away from honey; it needs no preservatives and is totally natural. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so when using honey in place of sugar in a receipt, only use two thirds as much as you would sugar.

Honey has a distinctive flavour, aroma, and colour, factors determined by the type of flower from which the bee collects the nectar. It takes on characteristics of the herb, tree, or flower that the bee has visited, such as lavender, apple blossom, dandelion, rosemary, or thyme.

Although most hives will select nectar from a variety of flowers, some hives live off a single type of flower and this is very keenly sought by beekeepers. Honey will crystallize if it is stored at too cold a temperature. It can also crystallize if moisture gets into the jar from a wet spoon or if left unsealed in a damp environment. To liquefy crystallized honey, stand the jar in a bowl of hot water until the crystals dissolve. When sorting, keep honey in an airtight container at room temperature.